Spring break is in full swing across the nation. It’s a great time for lawyers to assess their life and work balance. Even if you don’t have children or a spouse, it’s important to pay attention to life and work balance. It plays an integral part in your success as a lawyer. Did you know that lawyers who don’t take enough time away from work face a higher risk of committing an ethical violation?
It’s hard for lawyers to take time off. Despite amazing advances in technology that help you break loose of the office, it isn’t easy to find the right life and work balance. Sure, productivity is important. Yet, so is rest. It keeps your brain refreshed and keeps you from experiencing burn-out. Preventing burn-out is crucial because lawyers face a higher than average risk of battling depression and substance abuse.
We’ve got good news for you! You can achieve life and work balance. You can feel refreshed. And you don’t have to allow your law practice to crash and burn to make it happen. Here’s how to succeed with it:
Use a Back-up Attorney
If you work in a firm, it’s probably easier for you to take time off. There’s someone to handle your matters while you’re out. For solo attorneys, it can be more difficult. That’s why every solo attorney needs to find a back-up attorney. Finding (and using!) a back-up attorney while you’re on vacation reduces your malpractice exposure. It might even cause a drop in the premium you pay for malpractice insurance.
The duties of the back-up attorney will depend on your practice. If client contact or court can’t be avoided, then you need to find a back-up attorney close to you who can help in those areas. You’ll also want to review active matters and make sure that your back-up has the access to the files they need. The lawyer should practice in your area of law. If the back-up attorney will only be called by your clients for an emergency, they need general status information about the cases. The lawyer should be familiar with your practice area even if they don’t practice in it.
A back-up attorney isn’t a replacement for you. It just keeps your practice from disintegrating while you’re away.
Take Advantage of Technology
We’re not talking about your ability to log-in to your practice management software and work while you’re supposed to be enjoying the beach. We’re talking about basic technology: out of office replies and outgoing voicemail messages. Your out of office reply and your outgoing voicemail message should inform callers that you’re away and the name, phone number, and email address of someone they can talk with if they have an emergency. Your message should also state when you’ll be back and when they may expect a response.
Advance Notice of Your Absence
For anyone that you contact or who contacts you on a regular basis, give them an advance notice that you’ll be out of the office. Examples of people you want to inform include active clients and opposing counsel. If you have pending court dates, make sure that you follow jurisdictional procedures to give the court and opposing counsel official notice that you’ll be out of the office.
Take time to think about everything that could be due (or close to due) when you’ll be out of the office. Make a list and work ahead. It’s hard to maintain a healthy life and work balance if you come back to the office and you’re drowning in work with deadlines pressing down on your neck. Get as much done as you can before you leave.
Always Follow Through on Your Return
When you return from your vacation, follow through. Return phone calls and emails. Doing this will help you realize that it’s okay to get out of the office and unplug. You’ll feel re-energized and ready to do your best work for your clients.